Officers accused taking sexual advantage of women
LAUDERHILL, Fla. (WSVN) -- Two Lauderhill officers have bonded out of jail after they were arrested and charged for allegedly coercing two young women into having sex with them during a traffic stop.
The men are accused of inappropriately touching and having received sexual favors from two women following a traffic stop back in May 2012.
Officers Franklin Hartley, 32, and Thomas Merenda, 34, bonded out of jail Friday morning. They have been charged with unlawful compensation and battery. Merenda is also accused of making one of the women punch him repeatedly in the genitals.
According to investigators, the officers pulled over the two women on May 24, 2012 outside Vegas Cabaret, a nightclub on 5428 North University Dr. in Lauderhill, where the victims had allegedly been drinking. The officers then took the women behind the business, which is located just south of West Commercial Boulevard, for sex in return for failing to arrest them for drunk driving.
Hartley is accused of battery and accepting illegal compensation by way of groping, oral sex and sexual intercourse. Merenda is also accused of groping a victim, as well as telling her to repeatedly strike her in the groin for his sexual pleasure.
Merenda's attorney argued the latter charge is not illegal. "Being struck in the testicles is not a reward or a benefit, and it's not unlawful compensation," said Eric Schwartzreich. "My client's not guilty. My client's innocent."
Lauderhill Police Chief Andrew Smalling released the following statement: "I and the men and women of the Lauderhill Police department are truly disappointed with the nature of the allegations made against these two officers and if they are proven to be true, the consequences should be severe. The alleged actions of these two officers are in no way any reflection of the character and integrity of the many hard working men and women of the Lauderhill Police Department."
Schwartzreich questioned why two officers accused of trailing the women from the nightclub to force them to engage in sexual activity are not being charged with rape. "There's no armed sexual battery, there's no kidnapping; this case has been investigated for a year," he said.
If they are convicted of these charges, Hartley and Merenda could face up to 15 years in prison.
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